Top management at Colchester Hospital has been forced to admit to 563 serious incidents in a period of just two years.
Incidents classed as serious are those which caused or threatened to cause serious harm to either members of the public, patients, staff or the Trust organisation in the past two years.
The extent of the problem
The types of incidents which can be classed as serious can cover deaths which were unexpected or avoidable, outbreaks of hospital superbug infections, deaths of new mothers or their babies and allegations of abusive behaviour. Colchester Hospital refused to give further details about the types of incident involved.
All of the incidents were the result of errors and none can be classed as part of the day to day running of the hospital, which excludes events such as expected complications in surgery or deaths of patients who were seriously ill. The incidents reported also exclude cancer cases as the hospital is currently under a separate investigation regarding tampering with cancer figures.
A spokesperson for the Care Quality Commission confirmed that they are looking into allegations that waiting times were altered to hit targets. The spokesperson also confirmed that during a visit to the A&E department, a dead patient was wheeled through the department in the sight of both inspectors and patients.
Colchester Hospital – poor care of the elderly and those with dementia
The figures regarding serious incidents come after revelations that health inspectors had declared a major incident after finding that Colchester Hospital unnecessarily restrained elderly patients and those suffering from dementia and had also sedated patients inappropriately.
One of the wards at the Essex hospital was forced to turn away any new patients after inspectors felt it could not cope with the unprecedented levels of demand. Patients were also told only to go to A&E if their condition was life-threatening.
No improvement after hospital put into special measures
Colchester Hospital was put into special measures in November 2013 after the CSC uncovered the tampering with cancer figures.
The Chief Executive of national campaigning charity, Action Against Medical Accidents, Peter Walsh, said that the charity was surprised at the number of serious incidents at Colchester, given that it was a relatively small hospital.
A spokesperson for the NHS Trust said that each serious incident had to be investigated fully, and that the final report should have to be checked by a nursing or medical director. Some serious incidents which were outstanding may require the gathering of additional information and the inclusion of action points on any plan which is drawn up after the investigation. It is Clinical Commissioning Group policy that incidents are only closed when these steps have been followed.
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